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The Nuts is a monthly feature that takes a look at the best poker players in the world. This feature aims to produce a list of the best players at the moment. Our panel of 10 is composed of ESPN.com's poker contributors (Bernard Lee and me), ESPNDeportes.com poker editor Nahuel Ponce, Bluff magazine editor-in-chief Lance Bradley, senior writer Tim Fiorvanti and information manager Kevin Mathers, WSOP.com managing editor Jessica Welman, PokerNews editor-in-chief Donnie Peters, World Poker Tour's Eric Ramsey and Pocketfives' Dan Cypra.
January was filled with huge festivals like the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and Aussie Millions. It had the return of the National Heads-Up Poker Championships, the Turbo Championships of Online Poker at PokerStars and a buzz that set the tone for 2013 as an action-packed year. February continued the hectic tournament pace with three WPT (LA Poker Classic, Baden and Lucky Hearts) and WSOP Circuit (Palm Beach, Las Vegas and Africa) stops, plus the always-popular EPT Deauville and regionally strong Chicago Poker Classic and Parx Big Stax.
The significant common thread from the month was the success of the smaller buy-in festivals and, perhaps as a side effect, the limited appearances of the players in the top 10 in attendance and in the money. Phil Ivey isn't playing many non-WSOP $1,500 buy-ins these days and he retained the top spot once again despite no tournament results. Marvin Rettenmaier was the month's biggest mover, up five spots and into a tie for second with Vanessa Selbst. Rettenmaier, the reigning Bluff Player of the Year, made his third WPT final table in the past 10 months, this time in Baden. Unlike his last two appearances under the final table lights, Rettenmaier wasn't able to secure the win and instead finished fifth. He also added a small cash from a side event at EPT Deauville.
Scott Seiver moved up one spot with his main event cash at the LAPC while Phil Hellmuth and his unfortunate bubble-prone tendencies last month forced him down two spots to No. 5.
Michael Mizrachi is once again moving up the ranks (sixth) after he won the $3,300 buy-in WSOP Africa main event, defeating a field of 116. The latest win was his fifth cash and third final table of 2013. As quickly as Dan Smith had moved up to third, he's back down to seventh after only one five-figure cash. His quick decline is definitely surprising. Jason Mercier, formerly the top-ranked player, is now approaching bubble territory after another month void of a significant score. And the reigning WSOP champion and Player of the Year, Greg Merson, was the only player to fall out of the rankings this month. He spent most of February in Macau and the world's largest cash games.
Sam Trickett returned to the rankings at No. 9 as a result of his AU$2 million score from the Aussie Millions Super High Roller event. The AU$250,000 buy-in event featured 18 entries, and just like in 2011 when Trickett finished second, the British pro left the Crown Casino and headed to Macau significantly richer.
Did we leave out your favorite player? Who should be ranked higher? Who should be completely off the list? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below! Here's a look at February's top 10:
On the bubble
Greg Merson may have been the only player to drop out of the rankings this month, but he wasn't the closest to securing the No. 10 spot. The bubble boy this month was Mike Watson, who has been a force both live and online for years. Watson began his 2013 at PCA with a third-place finish in the $25,000 High Roller and a smaller cash in a $5,000 side event. He traveled to the Aussie Millions to win the AU$2,500 pot-limit Omaha event and then take third in the six-max turbo. Add in a FTP $1K Monday victory and a few satellite packages for majors around the world and the past few months have resulted in more than $600,000 for Watson. The reality? This success is nothing new for the Canadian star who is approaching the $6 million mark in career tournament earnings. David Sands remains on the bubble for the second consecutive month, but he notched two more cashes this past month in Las Vegas to further his cause. He's also Shooting Star at the Bay 101 for the first time in his career. Tom Marchese continues to find success at the cash games and finished fourth in the $25,000 LAPC High Roller for $118,030. He hasn't finished worse than fourth in his past six final table appearances. Igor Kurganov received some support thanks to hisAussie Millions effort. He is currently fifth on the 2013 money list. Tobias Reinkemeier, Joe Serock, Vladimir Troyanovskiy, Tom Dwan, Bertrand Grospellier, Dan Shak, Alexander Kostritsyn and Jonathan Duhamel also received strong consideration this month.
Bradley: The first few months of the year are always a little bit slower than the rest of the year, so seeing such little movement this month isn't a shocker. The next few months will see some new faces and names on this list and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Hellmuth and Esfandiari fall off entirely, only to reappear again after a strong WSOP finish.
Feldman:For the second month in a row I'm simply questioning the rank of one player on this list: Michael Mizrachi. It's pretty astounding that the Grinder can continually put up strong results and yet it appears his ceiling on this list is sixth. There may not be a more consistent player in the poker world right now and honestly, I don't know what it would take to persuade the rest of the panel that he should be ranked higher. If Mercier can hold onto a top spot on this list for months without putting up a big finish, why shouldn't Mizrachi find his way into the top 3?
As for February's misses, I think the bubble area pretty much sums up my thoughts. Watson, Reinkemeier and Kurganov are in the top 25 on the 2013 money list and each deserve a spot in the top 10. Out of that group, I'd say Watson deserves it the most. Similarly, Tom Marchese will return to these rankings. His efforts as of late aren't getting much exposure, but he's consistently winning on both the cash and tournament felt.
Finally, the question was #whenwillitend for Mercier? The former No. 1 player has admittedly struggled recently and his run on this list will probably end next month if he doesn't manage a score in March.